Remember last month when I said I had a plan to sort out part 3 of “The Gloaming”? Yeah… That plan didn’t work out so well. However, I’ve come up with another plan and everything seems to be going smoothly now. Smoothly for me, anyway. Not so much for my poor characters. Their final battle against the tyrannical king is underway, and there are going to be some serious consequences for the world at large.
Now that the end is in sight, I’ve been thinking about how to make the manuscript more appealing to agents and publishers. So far, I’ve identified two potential issues: length and target audience.
To Split or Not to Split
The current word count for “The Gloaming” is around 180,000 words (approx. 600 pages). Not unusual for a fantasy novel, but a hard sell for a previously unpublished author. The easiest solution would be to split the book into a trilogy; it’s already divided into three parts, so it wouldn’t take too much effort. From a business standpoint, a trilogy makes more sense than a standalone.
However, from an artistic standpoint, keeping it as one book might be better. The protagonist gets older over the course of the story; he’s ten years old in part 1, thirteen in part 2, and seventeen in part 3. Cognitively speaking, there is a huge developmental leap between those ages and, as a result, the main character might feel like a different person to the reader. If all three parts are in one book, continuity will probably offset the initial jarring feeling. But if the reader has to wait months for the next instalment to come out, they might wonder who this strange “new” protagonist is.
At this point, I’m leaning towards a single book, but it’s too early to make a definite decision. I will seek advice from industry professionals before I commit one way or the other.
The “age jumps” I mentioned before also put my book in an odd position from a marketing standpoint. “The Gloaming” doesn’t fit neatly into the MG or YA categories. I believe 13- to 14-year-old boys are the demographic most likely to enjoy this book, but an agent/publisher might disagree with me. According to a lot of writing advice websites, kids and teenagers don’t want to read about characters younger than themselves. Despite the prevalence of this advice, I have to respectfully disagree.
People generally choose a book because they’re interested in the story, not because of the protagonist’s age. The reason children and teenagers are more likely to choose a book with a same-age/older protagonist is because those protagonists are more likely to be dealing with problems that are relevant to the child or teenager. However, the protagonist’s age is not always a reliable indicator of the book’s suitability for a particular audience. There are plenty of books that feature young characters but are too mature for children of that age to read. “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card and “IT” by Stephen King are two examples.
Thematically speaking, I believe “The Gloaming” is more suitable for an older crowd. However, I will leave the marketing decisions to my future agent/publisher. They’re the experts, after all!
The Goal for July
Over the coming month, I plan to finish “The Gloaming” and send it off to beta readers. With 8 chapters to go, the plot is still a tangled mess, but it’s not as much of a tangled mess as it was when I first started. I have every confidence that I can finish the final chapters within the next 2 weeks, thus giving myself 2 weeks to make final edits on the overall manuscript.
That’s all the news I’ve got for now, so I’m going to get back to work. I hope you all have a wonderful month!
J. R. Schuyler